Category Archives: Marriage

The Only 2 Things

As many of you know over the past year and a half Sally and I have had a complete change of direction at the Hand of the Lord.  Some things that we thought were permanent in our life were abruptly removed.  The problem was that we didn’t want to let go.  Have you been there?

We eventually let go and have been praying, seeking and wondering ever since. Wondering and wandering through a series of options, thoughts and a sea of potential.  We have a glimmer of at least part of where God is leading us, but we don’t have the whole picture.  We are becoming ok with that.  Slowly.  This post is not focused on change…it is focused on The Only 2 Things.

We have seen people make declarations and commitments that something is “for life”. A statement that either it will never change or they will never stop doing it.  I have to say that’s not me, at least not anymore.  For me there are Only Two Things that will be consistently and daily part of my life.  Only two.

  1. My relationship with God.
  2. My relationship with my wife.

Everything else is variable. At this point I hear the thoughts of those of you who are parents (as are we).  “But what about your children?  Why aren’t they included?”  I love our boys and I am proud to be their father.  I treasure any time I have with them.  But they are adults and have begun charting their own paths.  I’ll never stop being their dad and will always love them, but the day will come when we won’t talk as often as we do now.  Where we and they live, life changes, and most importantly the call of God may modify when and how often we communicate.  They will have their own families and responsibilities. We will become smaller players in their daily lives and that is perfectly normal.

But the two things, God and my wife, will both be there as long as we live. In life be prepared for things to change, sometimes by your own decision and at other times in ways that are outside your control.  Let me make a statement that you may already understand or will one day become clear to you.

Sometimes-in-order-to

At some point God will shake up your world. It may be through a job change, a loved one moving or passing away, a need to move to a new city, a call to a different church or one of many other possibilities.  But make no mistake, the life you have now is not permanent.

You can’t control everything, but you CAN control the strength of your relationship with God. Have daily time in the Bible and prayer.  Make God the priority above all else and you will be living in the power of His peace.  You can also control how much love and care you pour into the relationship you have with your spouse.  You can’t control her or his reaction, but God’s Word has taught me that as you put more love in to your marriage then you will see wonderful results.

Luke6_38

I’m not saying to neglect other family and friends. A support system is of great value to you AND you should be a support to others who are following after you.  But over time both of those groups will change, perhaps several times.

When it comes down to it there are only two things that are going to be a part of your daily experience for a lifetime. God and your spouse.  Make sure each gets the attention appropriate to the relationship and changes in your life will be less about loss and more about adventure!

Love you all!

-Troy

 

Avoiding the Path of Destruction

We’ve talked about Why Christian Couples Get Divorced but in this post I want to cover perhaps the most common first step down the path. In fact this first step is incredibly innocent and most people would never even notice the slight shift in their relationship that it causes.

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.

-Matthew 18:15

For those of you who have spent much time in the church you recognize this verse as the first of three where Jesus is teaching about dealing with sin in the church. In our the church we previously attended these three verses, Matthew 18:15-17 were used as a broader guide for conflict resolution among Christians.  So if I had an issue with someone else in the church the order of events should always be 1) Talk to the person directly and see if we could not work it out 2) The two of us would get with 2-3 objective others and try to resolve the issue and finally 3) Take it to the local governing body, in that case the church board.  At every stage the people involved and the situation should be bathed in prayer.  I will say I served on that board for many years and we never once had a conflict reach that third level.  The people loved God and each other in wonderful ways.

But do you know what I notice very often? I mean very VERY often?  As people we don’t want to take the first step.  We don’t want to go to the person with whom we have the problem.  We feel more comfortable talking about the person to a third party rather than to the person themselves.

Why did I title this post Avoiding the Path of Destruction?

One of the most common, perhaps the most common first step in the end of a marriage is this: One spouse talking to a member of the opposite sex about their spouse instead of talking TO their spouse. If a husband decides to complain about his wife to another woman he treads dangerously toward an emotional attachment to the other woman.  If a wife talks to another man to let him know how her husband has disappointed her and the family then she is seeking comfort in the wrong arms.

Please don’t misunderstand me. If you have concerns about your husband or wife and you have talked to them THEN you share the concerns with another couple for prayer support you are most likely in a safe place.  If you want to be sure you are safe simply ask your spouse for permission to have the other couple pray for the situation.  In addition there are certainly times when seeking solo professional counseling may be necessary.  But neither of these should be the first step in talking to someone.  After you pray the FIRST person to talk to is your spouse.

Let’s sum this up.

  1. If you have a concern, complaint or problem with your spouse, talk to them first.  Pray together and individually.
  2. If the issue isn’t resolved find an objective other couple with whom to talk together and or pray with and about the situation.
  3. Depending on the severity of the issue seek professional counseling.

Remember this admonition from 1 Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Guard your marriage carefully. Don’t EVER talk to a member of the opposite sex about your spouse in a complaining or negative manner because if you do and don’t stop it could very well be lead down the Path of Destruction for your marriage.

Love you all!

-Troy

A Different Kind of Faith

About 15 years ago Sally and I were living in another city. I was working and being treated well, things were ok except for one thing. The home we were renting was being given to an organization as a charitable donation.

The organization receiving the home was kind and generous, having given us a more than fair amount of time to move. We researched apartments in the area, but really wanted another home because we had two small children. Homes to rent in our price range were fairly scarce.  However we found what seemed to be ideal. A nice place, affordable rent and in a good location.

As I was making final plans to sign the lease and pay the deposit Sally called me and told me not to do so. Keep in mind we had looked quite some time for a place and we even knew the owner. A bit confused but without question I did exactly what she said. We passed on the almost ideal home.

A few months later I was offered a job in Bloomington, IL. A hour and a half away in a city we had never considered. Had we taken the other house we would have been trapped in a lease.  I was so glad we had not walked that path.

On the day that we were preparing to sign the lease Sally said not to do so. Do you know why?  Because she didn’t feel it was the right thing to do. Where did she get that impression?  From the Holy Spirit. She was (and is) close enough to the Lord that He can whisper to her spirit and she will obey.

Do you know why I stopped on that day?  I didn’t hear from the Holy Spirit.  God didn’t whisper to my spirit. I stopped because I have faith. But not only faith in God.  Faith that my wife knows the voice of her Father. Faith that she knows to obey His voice. Faith not to doubt her when she brings His Word to me.

To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.” – 1 Corinthians 12:8 (NLT)

Let me ask you a question friend. When your wife tells you she feels something is from the Lord, what is your FIRST response?  To listen immediately or to question and doubt?

I am NOT saying that everything anyone ever says is “from the Lord” is necessarily so. But I am asking, how much do you trust your wife’s spiritual hearing?  My wife loves me, supports me and honors me as the spiritual leader in our household. That doesn’t make me proud or haughty, it makes me humble. Humble enough to have faith that when she says the Lord has spoken to her I have trust…and we follow HER lead.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” – Proverbs 12:15 (ESV)

The difference between a leader and a boss is simple. A boss is always right, but a leader takes counsel from those he trusts. Be leader, take her counsel and you’ll be a happier husband. :-)

Love you all!

-Troy

 

What Is Love Anyway?

This is a longer post, but if you really want to know what love is and what it is NOT then please read on.

Recently someone I care about deeply was is a difficult place.  She turned to me (which is an honor) and asked me a couple of questions.  Let me set it up with a paraphrase of her part of the conversation:

“I read a lot of quotes about love, but what are they supposed to mean?  What does love truly mean from a man’s point of view?  In the beginning they tell you daily that they love you, that they want to spend the rest of their lives with you and that nothing matters but you.  However a few months or years down the road all of the affection and attention is gone.  Then they say that they love you, but are not IN love with you.  Does that mean it’s over?  That I need to face this painful reality?  Is it hopeless?

Following is my (edited) response


Wow. Those are big questions. I really should do a long blog post (or short eBook) about what love truly means. (that’s what you are all reading now :-))

First, most of us (guys and gals) most of the time use the word “love” incorrectly. We say, “I love ice cream” or “I love the Cardinals” when we really mean “I have a strong preference for ice cream” or “I prefer the Cardinals over the Cubs.” In this case it’s not “love” it is “prefer” or “really like”.

Second, there are two other common misuses of the word “love”. They are cases of lust or limerance (hang with me a moment friends). We all understand lust. It’s a strong desire for the physical attractiveness of another person. Lust happens more commonly in men than women (at least in my experience) but women are not immune.

The truly tricky one is something called “limerance”. This is a term referring to the chemical reactions in a someone’s brain when they first meet a new person to whom they are attracted. It’s often mixed in with lust, but it is more than just physical. Limerance is the exciting time when the other person can do no wrong, when you want to spend every waking moment with them, when you could be on the phone for hours. They have no flaws and everything they do is AMAZING! They are the perfect person to you and no amount of input from other family and friends can convince you otherwise. (Hence the old saying “love is blind”.) This is the classic “falling in love” stage. Every Hollywood romantic comedy is really all about limerance and so is every fairy tale that closes with, “and they lived happily ever after.”

Limerance is based on feelings and emotions that come from chemical interactions in the brain. Here is the secret very few know about the limerance or “falling in love” period. It has a scientifically proven and measureable lifetime. Limerance lasts, on average, 18-24 months. This is why couples “fall out of love” or say “I love you but I’m not IN love with you.” They have lost the head over heels, butterflies in your tummy, can’t wait to see you feelings. They had limerance, they probably also had lust, but they never had real love.

Here is the big difference…and it’s likely to be a shocker.

Love has nothing to do with feelings. Love is not an emotion.

Don’t get me wrong. Feelings can be the gateway to love. Most long-term happily married couples start out in limerance (and possibly lust). Sally and I were INTENSELY in limerance when we met. But not love. Not at first.

In fact I would go out on a limb to say almost NO couples start out in a state of real love. So, what characterizes the change from limerance to love? One word. Choice.

Love is a choice.

Love is a choice a person makes every day and many times a day. Love is a choice to serve the other person when you are tired, or frustrated, or angry or when you simply feel nothing. Love is the difference between doing what you feel at the time and doing what you committed to do at the altar. Love is acting by doing what you know is best for the other person more so than yourself. Love is a choice.

So when someone says to another person, “I’m not in love with you anymore” it means two things. 1) They likely don’t understand what real love is and never had it in the relationship and 2) They have chosen what THEY want rather than what the other person wants.

But THERE IS HOPE even in this situation. I’m a Christian, do you know why? Not because I deserved to be saved from my sins. Not a chance! Not because God FELT like He should save me. No, I am a Christian because Jesus, in LOVE, CHOSE to die on a cross for my sins. He chose to love me and I accepted that love and now I choose to love Him by serving Him in various ways. Love began with God.

Is it possible to “fall out of love”? No, because love is not a feeling, it is a choice. Is it possible to “fall out of limerance”? Absolutely…and it usually happens within 18-24 months. Couples will often stay together much longer out of obligation or fear. Years longer, in a miserable relationship either characterized by simmering anger and frustration or with no feeling, only deadness and more like roommates than a happy marriage.

Let me wrap this up on a happy note! Can a couple with no feelings, or feelings of anger ever get good feelings back? Yes, yes a thousand times yes!! It’s very simple. Choose to love. Choose to love by serving the other person, by saying kind and uplifting words, by physical touch, by small gifts, by simply spending time together in shared activity. Feelings follow actions and if we take the actions which characterize the choice of love then we WILL have feelings for the other person.

Oh boy, will we have feelings! Deeper, more powerful feelings of love than most have ever experienced! This is SO possible and unbelievably worth it. Sally and I learned these principles from a book we received early in our marriage. It is called The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. Pick up a copy and jump into it! If you’d like my take specifically on that book check out The Book That Started It All.

Now go out there and CHOOSE to love each other!

Love you all, truly I do…because I choose to do so.

-Troy

 

First Place

In case you didn’t know it, I love my wife.  I love her dearly.  My life has been blessed beyond what I even truly understand because she said “Yes” when I asked her to marry me.  I don’t know what I would do without her by my side.  But she isn’t my everything.

Popular culture, movies, music, books and social media could easily lead me down this path.  I grew up in the 80s.  Take a look at a few of the song titles from that decade related to loving another person:

“Your Love is King” – Sade

“Endless Love” – Dianna Ross and Lionel Ritchie

“Up Where We Belong” – Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker

“All of My Heart” – ABC

“Saving All My Love for You” – Whitney Houston

This is a small sampling even from that 10 year period.  The story from culture is this: Find the right person, fall in love, get married, live happily ever after.  Seriously.  What a lie.  A LIE!

“You shall have no other gods before me.” – Exodus 20:3

I love my wife.  I love her dearly.  I never want to live without her and I know she feels the same way about me.  But is “Saving All My Love” for her the best plan for a long and happy marriage?  Nope.  You know what “Saving All My Love” for a person would eventually get me?  Disappointment, disillusionment, despair.  Why?  Because (like me) she is human.  We are imperfect.  So what is the true way to a happy marriage?

Fall in love with God, meet the right girl who is also in love with God, get married, live in the Spirit and be filled with the joy of the Lord in your marriage.  Oh and if you met the girl then fell in love with God that’s also good, as long as He gets first place.

I can only love her best when I love God most.  Love her, cherish her, encourage her, enjoy her company, sacrifice for her but do NOT worship her.  God is the ONLY object of my worship.

I love my wife.  I love her dearly.  But I love God more and worship only Him…and she is glad for that.

 

-Troy

 

The Good Old Days?

A few days ago I saw a comment on a recent post of a pic from 25 years ago… “Those were the good old days.”  Wow.  I’m not a fan of that type of attitude.  Let me explain why.

When we consider the past to be better than the present and wax nostalgic there are two problems:

1) We begin to live in the past.

2) We become disappointed with our current point in time.

Living in the past means stagnation in the present and death to your God planned future. Here is the scriptural proof:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” – Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

The future of your life and your marriage depends on exactly two things: God’s plan and your belief in God’s plan.  The good days are today and tomorrow and next year.  To believe the best of your life is in the past is to give up all hope.

You must know this, there ARE better days ahead…unless you let them slip away.  You can have the marriage of your dreams, but not if you believe the best is in the past.  Is the marriage you have everything you want in marriage?  Even the best marriages can grow and develop.  Sally and I do devotions together, we pray together (every day), we talk about God’s plan for our life together and we do these things regularly.  Have we always done these things?  Nope.

For decades we didn’t pray together and do devotions together.  Did we have a great marriage?  Ask our friends, but I know we did.  Did we have the best possible marriage?  Not at all.  We are MUCH closer now.  The good old days?  Yes they were good.  Do I want back what we had then?  Not a chance.  Our “now” beats our “then” by a wide margin.

Growth in marriage is intentional.  The future of your marriage is made in your efforts today.  It takes time and focus but it’s not hard work.

Ready to stop living in “the good old days” and make the present and future better than you ever thought possible?  It takes simple steps, done daily.

1) Believe it is going to be better.  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1 NASB

2) Pray for the Lord’s leadership and wisdom in your marriage.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5

3) Make it happen.  Do the small things you know to do and God will grow your marriage into something beautiful and powerful for His glory.  “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin” – Zechariah 4:10a NLT

Don’t live on past successes in your marriage, be always striving to love each other more each day.

-Troy

 

Tell Her (and everyone else) About It!

When I was a child there were challenges and difficulties.  My eldest sister passed away before she  entered high school and my parents divorced the following year.  I was about 10 years old.  It was a rather dark time in my life as I had not yet been introduced to Jesus.  Mom left the state and dad worked hard to raise the three of us that remained.  A couple of years later mom returned but there were still problems with her new husband and a host of other issues.  Dad had some anger issues and there was a fair amount of yelling between us as children and him.

Discouraged yet?

By all rights I should have come out of that situation emotionally stunted and very withdrawn.  However if you’ve ever met me you know I am a positive person, chronically happy and high on the self-confidence scale.  Why?

Two reasons.  The first is, of course, the power of the Holy Spirit in my life.  The second is less clear from the story of my childhood.  My parents, like all of us who have children, made many mistakes.  But they got one BIG thing consistently right.

Over and over I was told that I was intelligent, that I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to achieve, effectively built up to the belief that I was able to change the world if that was my desire.  There were times that I took it too far, issues with arrogance had to be dealt with by the Lord, but all in all it was healthy to have the uplifting words in my life.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

My parents didn’t take me to church at this time in my life, but somehow they both had the gift of encouragement.  I firmly believe God planted that in them for a specific reason.

How does this apply to HappierHusband?  Simple, encouragement is part of my spiritual DNA.  I constantly talk up my lovely bride (see what I did there? :-)).  In fact it is very uncommon for me to speak to Sally using her given name.  My conversations with her are sprinkled with terms of endearment such as “pretty girl”, “hot wife”, “my love”, “love of my life”.  This type of speech is a constant reminder to her just how precious she is to me.  From the other perspective it is a constant reminder to me to treat her with love and care.

Hot Wife

When I am away from her speaking to others she gets complimented by me.   A LOT!  Guys you want a way to get some points with your lovely lady?  Talk her up to family members, mutual friends and even strangers.  I promise it will get back to her and you WILL be rewarded.  That’s not why you do it, just a fringe benefit.

Three final points:

1) Never ever EVER EVER insult your wife.  Never.  Ever.  Ever.  Words can cause incredible harm.  “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” – Proverbs 12:18.  Encourage her and build her up and you will see her spirit be lifted up and her joy increase.

2) I do not tell you about how I speak to my wife in order to brag, but rather to encourage you.  Every word out of a husband’s mouth to his wife should be filled with kindness and love, compassion and grace.

3) If you make a habit of telling her how amazing she is, how much you love her and how much she means to you it will not only affect her, it will affect you.  You can’t help but fall more and more in love with the person on whom you constantly lavish affection.

Now go and tell her..and everyone else!

-Troy

 

The Problem with (some) Marriage Advice

That must seem like an odd title…since it would seem that “Marriage Advice” is one of the primary themes of this blog.

I read a fair amount about marriage. In addition I hear various speakers express their marriage views.

Interestingly both Christian and secular authors and speakers often follow the same track. They espouse expectations of ‘normal’ married life based on ALL types of marriages. Basically averaging out every marriage, healthy or unhealthy and telling you that’s what you will get.

The mantra is that “all marriages go through certain stages” or “all marriages have great challenges” or even, “no marriage is ever truly happy for the long term.”

Whoa. If I were into that school of thought I would be depressed.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in basing my expectations of marriage on what someone else calls ‘normal’. I want extraordinary. I don’t want what everyone else has, I want what is POSSIBLE!

Matthew 19:26 says, Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

I want the best marriage!  It’s possible!  Do YOU want the best marriage?

Here is some safe advice. If you want the BEST possible marriage then seek out mentors who have what you want and emulate them…no matter what the ‘experts’ say.

There is truth in the statement, “You get what you expect to get.”  If you read books and articles about all of the problems and issues that are “normal” in marriage then you will believe that to be the case. Then you’ll see those issues. I promise. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. But if you believe for something different then you’ll see what is NOT “normal”.

Your extraordinary marriage waits on the other side of your belief. You want it?  There are three steps:

1) Pray for it.

2) Believe for it.

3) Love for it.

You CAN have the best possible marriage…but only if you want it.

Go be happy!

-Troy

 

Hard Work?

Here we go. Time to deal with another marital misconception.

Life is challenging.  Bills, illnesses, school, moves, uncertainty, work and people.  All those people!  Seriously.  There are times when it might seem like it would be a WHOLE lot simpler if it weren’t for all those crazy people in your life.  :-)

This isn’t easy.  Interacting with others with whom you have little or nothing in common.  Working with those who rub you the wrong way.  Dealing with parents and (sometimes) children can be difficult.  Relationships can be hard work.

You know what should not be hard work?  Marriage.

Marriage should be a sanctuary. A place of rest where we get and give comfort and support. A place where the challenges of everyday life are met with a spirit of unity and confidence. Confidence that no matter the circumstances we will come out the other side stronger and closer to each other and to God. Strife is to be avoided at all costs. Marriage is grace and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, safety and security.

For a period of time in our early marriage this was not our reality. We didn’t have much time together, we were flat broke and we allowed the pressures of life to invade our relationship. Is that you right now?  Is your home a place you dread to go because it is anything but a sanctuary?  Or perhaps it is a place of quiet desperation, just struggling to make through another day without walking away?  The good news?  There is hope!

Let me encourage you to go back and read 22 Years of Failure and The Book That Started It All.  Start by applying what you read in each of those posts.

When I married Sally I committed to spending our lives together.  Marriage is not two people living together and sharing expenses.  It is giving and caring and loving.  It is seeing the other person’s path as the same as your own.

I hear often that marriage is hard work. But I’ve also read that if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. I LOVE being married to Sally. It’s not hard work, it’s a joy!

Let me make a statement that will either draw cheers or anger.  I doubt there will be people in the middle.

If your marriage is hard work then something is wrong.  Bad marriages are incredibly difficult. Good marriages are hard work. Great, God-centered marriages?  Not so much. 

What do I mean?  I do NOT mean you’ll face life without challenges.  You will still see times of joy and sorrow, feast and famine, certainty and doubt.  That is life and “…He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” (Matthew 5:45)

However never forget, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23

The Holy Spirit is the key to your best marriage.

Marriage is only “hard work” when one or both spouses put their wants/needs above the other.  When our goal is to serve then marriage becomes a greater joy than you might have ever imagined!  Marriage should always be the both of you, the most inseparable of teams, seeking a singular purpose. We are no longer two people with separate plans and hearts, but rather one flesh, a united spirit, seeking to do God’s will and walk His path together.

It’s not “hard work” to be married. It’s “hard work” to be married but still be trying to walk separate paths. 

Here is my challenge to you.  Find something you can do TODAY to decrease the marital “hard work” for your wife.

Tell me in the comments how you will make this happen.

Now go make her life easier!

-Troy